Democracy for Sale
Some were arrested for protesting. Some were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Katya Novikova was detained while attempting to cross the street in central Minsk. She was dragged by her neck and thrown into an unmarked police vehicle, then held for two nights in an overcrowded cell. 

She told openDemocracy she was refused medical assistance and saw prisoners beaten by officers. 

Thousands have been arrested in Belarus during protests over rigged elections, with President Alexander Lukashenka – ‘Europe’s last dictator’ – leading a brutal crackdown to silence dissent.

So far, they’ve failed. Yet the opposition remains a fragile coalition: Yury Glushakov reports on the tensions between the various groups jostling for the future of Belarudeep reporting on the vested interests

Meanwhile in Britain, a powerful elite continues to profit from COVID-19. A joint investigation by openDemocracy and The Guardian this week revealed how the UK government has spent £56m on COVID-19 consultants. Most contracts were awarded without competition – raising fresh anger about the “COVID cronyism” of Boris Johnson’s government.

From lucrative PR deals for Tory allies, to dodgy deals for Tory-backing property developers, openDemocracy has been at the vanguard of reporting on this  fast-emerging political scandal.

But it doesn’t stop there. As our Investigations Editor Peter Geoghegan’s new book ‘Democracy for Sale’ lays bare, a toxic combination of “rightwing ideology, dark money and weaponisation of social media” is undermining faith in politics and in democracy itself. 

Drawing on openDemocracy’s forensic investigative journalism over the last three years, Peter’s book shows us “a broken political system that is ripe for exploitation again. And again. And again.” 
Mary Fitzgerald,
Editor-in-chief, openDemocracy

One Nation, One Ration Card
The interstate portability facility under the One Nation One Ration Card initiative will be accessible only at a reasonable price shop with a completely online e-POS machine. Union Minister Ram Viias Paswan has said that the provision of 'one nation, one ration card' will be introduced in the country from 1st June 2020. This scheme will cover large scale migrant workers and especially needy people. Through this initiative, eligible receivers will be able to avail their food grains from any regular cost shop in the country using a ration card under the National Food Security Act.

Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Viias Paswan also announced in the Lok Sabha that the facility will be accessible only after biometric or Aadhaar verification on the e-POS ; device. The interstate portability department under the One Nation One Ration Card initiative will be available entirely at a fair price shop with a completely online e-POS machine.

Minister Ram Vilan Paswan has stated that the initiative will start from 1st June over the country. This information was given by the Union Minister in response to supplementary raised by Ganesh Singh and some other members during the question hour in the Lok Sabhagu. Paswan said that at present, a posh machine facility has been introduced in 14 states for ration cards. He also said that the facility would be begun soon in the other 20 states and union territories. He also stated in the Lok Sabha that the government's goal is to start the initiative of 'one nation, one ration card' by June one'. He said the target will be achieved by the government.
He said that the new system will ensure that if any person goes from one place to another, he should not have any difficulty in getting ration. The new system will also eliminate bogus ration cards. Paswan further said that in 11 states including Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Odisha, and Madhya Pradesh, it would be easier for ration cardholders to get cheaper ration in case of moving from one place to another within the state. Point of Sale (POS) machines are already engaged at ration shops in these states.

Periyar was an eccentric personality and even a nut in some affairs His first quarrel when he was in Congress came with the famous freedom fighter and émigré revolutionary returned home V V S Aiyar and he almost hunted Aiyar out of Congress. Then the veered towards atheist and casteist politics—more so the latter, left Congress and joined the Justice Party, a British loyalist party. He organised many vulgar shows to exhibit his atheist mess—which more saner elements among atheists never did nor do. It is true that he even beat portraits of Rama and Sita. etc. with chappals in a public procession and for mat prosecuted even, though I don't know—can't recollect if he was convicted for that. Annadurai differed, even quarreled, seriously with him and started a new party Oravida Munnetra Kazrtsgam. which came to limelight very much during anti-Hindi agitations in 1965 and thereafter registered a resounding success in Assembly and then Parliamentary elections in 1967 or so and from then on one wing of the other of this DMK is rulling the State, with Congress decimated But Annadurai never gave any political importance to Periyar thereafter though he kept Periyar as a figurehead ideologist. MG Ramachandran separated from DMK which went under the leadership of Karunanidhi after Anna's death. WGR was not an atheist may be an agnostic if not believer. By the time Jayalaitha took the reins AIADMK was almost a conglomeration of believers with very few atheists any. DMK conduce to be agnostic, if not atheist, but radically changed its bitter anti-religious attitude. Peryar is only a figurehead and nobody takes his seriously—when alive or now after he is dead.

So nothing wrong m what Rajnikant said and filing a case against him is lust a serious attack on freedom of speech and expression It is ridiculous that Periyar should have had freedom to seriously hurt the sentiments of believers by going to the extremes and nobody is allowed to criticise. This is nothing but totalitarianism in democratic guise.
I M Sharma, Advocate,

Reign of Terror
For the last one month or so, Uttar Pradesh is under a reign of terror. Uttar Pradesh government is employing unlawful and lethal tactics to harass and intimidate the citizens that are protesting against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). The authorities are brazenly targeting Muslims, besides all peoples movements and human rights activists, throwing democratic norms, constitutional rights and the due process of law to the winds. The goal is not just to suppress all dissent against CAA/NRC in Uttar Pradesh, but to send a signal to anyone who may dare to raise a voice against anything.

Under this regime, UP police has acquired a notorious reputation for repeatedly breaching the due process of law, including over 3,500 'encounters'. But ever since the beginning of the anti-CAA/NRC protests, UP police has crossed all limits of a constitutional democracy. There is little doubt that all this is happening under the personal direction, sanction and supervision of the Chief Minister.
A Reader, Lucknow

Vol. 53, No. 12, sep 20 - 26, 2020